Child's bedroom in energy efficient home plan
Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends, House Design

Energy efficient home plans are essential

If you’re planning on building a new home, you’ve got a chance to get it right from day one. Low energy bills, a healthy and supremely comfortable living environment, great design – what’s not to love?

Energy efficient home plans are the key ingredient to an energy efficient home, along with energy efficient materials and building technologies, and – of course – a builder who understands how to make the most of all of these.

Energy efficient home plans from EkoBuiltWhy are they so important?

Home plans that have been developed by an experienced home builder over time will take into account myriad factors, including the best distances for work areas in a kitchen, ideal corridor and flow pathways, orientation of private spaces to public ones, relationships of the indoors to the outdoors, etc. But there is much more to a home than floorplans.

An energy efficient home plan will also take into account things like roof slope and style, overhangs, maximizing window size on south and west facing walls, etc.

Will you know an energy efficient plan when you see it?

Possibly not. Unless you know the right things to look for, you may not be able to pick out the best options. An energy efficient home builder will be able to guide you in selecting from the best plans, can work with you to further customize those base plans to best suit your needs, preferences and budget, and will know the appropriate building materials and systems required to realize the build properly. The right builder will stay abreast of the best home building technologies and approaches for reducing a home’s energy footprint.

Why EkoBuilt?

Child's bedroom in energy efficient home plan

A child’s bedroom in the EkoBuilt model home. Although curtains have been added for light control, they aren’t needed for warmth. The Munster windows are incredibly well sealed and energy efficient.

After years of building custom and energy efficient homes for customers, the EkoBuilt team has years of experience in designing and building homes, and this experience has translated into the 13 energy efficient home plans from our Passive House line, as well as 8 tiny/coach house plans for secondary dwellings/rental properties and tiny home enthusiasts.

The 13 passive house plans that we’ve developed encompass both two-storey and bungalow styles, all boast low-slope roofs with large overhangs, and each one is designed to maximize the placement and size of south and west-facing windows.

These house plans also build on years spent accumulating knowledge of the best kinds of home floorplans to cater to different lifestyles and life phases. Some of our plans will be better suited to individuals, retired couples or those without children, while others are more clearly family/multi-resident homes.

All of the plans include an optional basement with lower-level access, and all can be paired with an energy efficient garage, as required.

Homes designed to take advantage of electricity – the fuel of the future

These homes are easily and cheaply run using an air to air source heat pump which can heat a home for less than $30/month (electricity) during the coldest months of winter. Really!

And, as noted above, we’re always delighted to work with clients to customize one of our plans to best suit their design preferences, budget and needs. We can help you think through how you live and how your home’s design can best support that.

Most importantly, we can help you end up with the most delightfully comfortable and healthy home, that is also the most energy efficient one possible to build currently.

Get in touch

Tell about your dreams and plans; we’ll help you choose the best energy efficient house plan and show you how to make it your reality.

Read more about the EkoModel Home, which demonstrates all of these principles.

Passive house materials and construction
Energy & Household Trends, Simply Sustainable

Don’t forget Green Energy Doors Open this weekend

The EkoBuilt Model Home will be open for public viewing on Saturday and Sunday this weekend from 9am to 5pm each day, as part of Green Energy Doors Open Ottawa ’17. We hope you’ll come out and visit our four-bedroom passive house just west of Ottawa. Just stepping into the house you’ll feel the difference.

The Eko Solar Engine - passive house infographic

Click to learn about the EkoBuilt solar engine

The EkoBuilt Passive House is our premier offering for home owners seeking the best investment, exceptionally low energy consumption, and comfort from a home that is also supremely healthy. We offer 13 designs, all of which can be customized to meet your specific needs and preferences.

Almost all of our conversations begin with the passive house and what it means for home owners. To aid these conversations and to support your research into the best home for you, we recently developed an illustration that shows the component parts of what we call the Eko Solar Engine.

Throwing our doors open this weekend offers a perfect opportunity to ‘see’ the solar engine in action and to ask questions. We look forward to meeting you!

Saturday, 30 Sept and Sunday, 1 October
9am – 5pm
96 Libbys Road
McNab/Braeside, Ontario K7S 0E1

Quick Links

Full details for EkoBuilt’s participation can be found here on the GEDO website.

Review all participating sites and events associated with this weekend’s GEDO.

Green Energy Doors Open 2017

House with roof panels
Energy & Household Trends, Simply Sustainable

Going off grid

Inexpensive and Simple

When many of us hear the term ‘off-grid’ in terms of our homes, it’s easy to think it must be difficult or costly to get a off-grid, however it is actually very easy to implement and not terribly expensive. When viewed in line with typical utility bills, it simply makes sense.

A typical off-grid system might range from $20-$30k to purchase, which is a significant upfront investment for most of us, but seen over the duration of a mortgage, it would actually translate into a very manageable monthly payment, e.g. $170 / per month. This is actually more affordable than many typical monthly utility bills for homeowners.

All change…or at least, a significant shift

At this point in time, almost every off-grid project requires a generator, because the sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing, and the capacity for storing the energy generated by these sources in batteries simply hasn’t developed sufficiently.

The problem with conventional off-grid systems is that they require propane or gas, which are petroleum based fuels. As we all know, this represents a simply unsustainable energy supply. Which is why we turn to biofuel.

Why not use readily available bio-fuel?

We recommend using a generator that can burn vegetable oil or bio diesel.  These are the fuels of the future as they are non-petroleum based and renewable.

A European company, Gelec Energy, has a great selection of generators, including ones engineered for use with vegetable oil/biofuel.

With this technology, no one is reinventing the wheel; they are simply making use of existing diesel technology developed over 100 years ago. After all, deeply concerned about the pollution that accompanied the age in which he lived, Rudolph Diesel originally designed his engine so that it could run off peanut oil…

As a fuel, bio diesel is also reasonably affordable, costing as little as $.60 per litre, compared to much closer to a dollar per litre for gas at the pump.

What this looks like

In the summer period (mid-March to mid-October) an off-grid house is designed to run off solar PV panels and batteries. In the winter period (mid-October to mid-March) it’s engineered to run off a combination of solar PV, batteries, and the generator.

On average, a full-size family home will use 24 kWh per day in the warmer months, and 30 kWh per day in the cold season. The house can run directly off solar PV when the sun is shining, but here are the factors to consider for overcast days:

  • Battery storage is 15 kWh.
  • Batteries experience on average .5 charge cycles per day during the summer period and one charge cycle per day during the winter period.
  • Batteries cost $15,000 and are guaranteed for 3,000 charge cycles which equates to a battery lifetime of 12 years. This averages out to $1,250 per year.
  • Generator cost is $15,000; with limited run time it should last approximately 30 years, resulting in an annual cost of $625.
  • On average, the generator needs to produce 15 kWh per day during winter. The generator can do this with 1.5 L used vegetable oil or biodiesel: 1.5 L x 150 days = 225L x $0.60 per litre = $135/year.

Total annual costs

  • Cost for bio diesel approximately $0.60 per litre = $135 per year
  • Generator cost amortized over 30 years = $625 per year
  • 6 kW solar array and inverter $15,000 to last 50 years or more = $300 per year
  • Batteries amortized over 12 years = $1,250 per year

Total = $2,310 per year. We conservatively estimate that this is 50% less than what most full-size family homes cost to keep heated and cooled when connected to the grid.

Interested to know more?

We’re happy to answer questions about how to take your home off-grid, particularly if you’re building new and want to know the best decisions to make upfront to maximize energy saving potential. Give us a shout today.

Related reading:

Going Solar: the EkoModel Home
Your House Needs a Solar Engine, and We’ve Got It

 

EkoModel News

Save the Date: Green Energy Doors Open 2017

EkoBuilt will be taking part in Green Energy Doors Open ’17 this year (Sept 30/Oct 1), and we’ll be opening the doors of the EkoModel home.

This year the event will also include a one-day EV Exhibition on Aberdeen Square in Ottawa. They will showcase several electric vehicles, including a racing car.

Green Energy Doors Open 2017Green Energy Doors Open, is a province-wide, year-round communications campaign and showcase of individual, community, and commercial sustainable energy projects. It is organized and spearheaded by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association. The initiative aims to showcase advancements in the sector, demonstrating that Ontario is already on the path to building a 100% clean, sustainable energy system.

Save the Date

EkoBuilt Demonstration Home
30 Sept – 1 Oct 2017
9am to 5pm
Full details >

Quick Links

Green Doors Energy Open 2017 – List of Host Sites

See you there!

Garden shed and garage organization videos
Healthy Living

Video tutorials for organizing your garden shed and garage

Heading into the long weekend that marks the end of summer, you may have more than just a bit of a last hurrah on your mind. If you’re staying closer to home, you may find that you’d like to tackle an outdoor job before also indulging in some fun and relaxation.

Ottawa’s weather forecast is looking a little iffy beyond Saturday, so for the remainder of the weekend, a quick project in the garage or your garden shed could be just the thing!

A little garden shed inspiration

Small space storage project for lawn mower and tools

Garage cleaning & storage ideas

Spring or fall, it doesn’t matter; it may be high time to purge, clean and get organized in your garage. Ignore the plug for the power washer here (though you may need to use one!), and instead notice the principles around a deep clean, and a cool beam system for storage containers.

A new life for your garage floor

Total garage storage – planning and makeover steps

Here’s to a great long weekend, and an organized start to the fall!

 

Photo by Taduuda on Unsplash

Ottawa tiny house community
Healthy Living

Calling All Citizens! Calling All Citizens!

If you’re not already in a community you will WANT to consider this and if you are in a suburban community you will REALLY WANT to consider this. If you are not in a community at all, you will APPRECIATE this…

As humans, we are naturally social creatures hard wired to engage with people in one form or another. With modern technology, this engagement is increasingly less than in the past. But we stand to gain so much when we come together.

Our vision of an EkoCommunity is a vibrant community that has the flexibility build in for as much, or as little, privacy as its members want, and where there is shared satisfaction in living in a supremely comfortable and healthy home.

There is an amazing side benefit to living in a shared community: it’s actually a much more economical way to live! With rising land costs, our cost-of-living (or the cost of our dreams of living on more land) has shot through the roof! With a shared community property, these costs are brought back down to ‘normal’. The cost of a commonly shared building is usually included.

Communities of the 21st-century should be communities that share a piece of land and are either net zero or self sustainable:

Net zero – a home that produces the same amount of energy as it uses (usually with solar panels);
Self sustainable – off grid with community owned energy production systems that are, of course, sources of renewable energy.

Living in a shared community, free of energy dependence (off-the-grid) and affordably, is surely a great way to go forward. The best part is, most cities and townships accept these types of communities with open arms, as long as the property is zoned residential, of course!

What is your vision of a designed community?

It does take a particular group of people to come together and decide on a property and a general style of home/buildings, but when people agree, great things happen!

We’re here to help if you can see the way to finding you group and making it happen. Add your name to our EkoCommunities list, and we can help connect you with like minded folks! We’ve also got the home technology and plans to help you see your vision through.

BBQ in the rain
Landscaping & Gardening

Rain proofing your BBQ and other fun things

BBQ in the rain

Photo from The Guardian

This super wet summer is definitely providing some challenges in the garden and in planning get-togethers. Leave it to the British to offer some good advice on barbecuing in wet weather: How to Rain-Proof Your Barbecue from the Guardian.

As Canadians who camp, we’re not too phased by tending to the BBQ in the rain, but it’s a great reminder that a well placed tarp can make a world of difference. We expect to do this when we go camping, but this year it may be something worth doing in the backyard too if you normally enjoy grilling without any cover. This video offers a great primer on 4 knots that are great to know whenever and wherever you might be setting up your tarp.

4 Knots to Set Up a Tarp

Rainy Day S’Mores

Recipe for Rainy day s'mores

From Savoring the Good

If foul weather conspires to simply keep you feeling housebound for a spell, there are loads of recipes for Rainy Day S’mores on the ‘net, and you could certainly start with this one from Savoring the Good: Rainy Day S’mores in 10 Minutes.

Here’s to summer fun, even when the weather doesn’t go our way!

EkoBuilt's passive house solar engine
EkoModel News, Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Passive House facts

Reflecting on a warm winter in the EkoModel Home

The sub-title for this post really should be “how comfortable is a passive house in winter?” And the answer is: very!

Okay, so the sun has been shining and we’re feeling the summer’s warmth, but cast your mind back to the long, grey winter we had here in the Ottawa Valley. Not for long, just long enough to picture the environment in which the EkoModel passive house spent its first winter.

Although the average temperature for the area was roughly -5.5C from December through March, December and January both saw some supremely cold days: -28C the low in December, -25C the low in January. Throughout the period we kept the house at steady 21C for daytime and evening; overnight, with no heating, the temperature would make a gentle fall to 18 or 19C by morning.

Having lived in homes in the past where keeping the temperature at 21C would have been too costly, this round the clock comfort was the revelation we hoped it would be. Both floors of the home, including the upstairs bedrooms, maintained these temperatures – no ‘cool spots’ as in many older homes.

The Eko Solar Engine - passive house infographic

Click to learn about the EkoBuilt solar engine that heats (and cools) this passive house

All of this was achieved using an average of just 31.75 kWh per day – which may not seem that low, until you remember that this passive house has NO FURNACE. That hydro-electricity usage simply represents the operation of the ‘solar engine’ components (including a fresh air exchanger, and an air-to-air heating and cooling pump) of the house, and daily living (lights, cooking, heating water*, PC and television usage) of a family of five.

So, our total energy bills for the four deep winter months was $801.48 (or $200/month).

*We heat our water to 120C.

An interesting note on Sunny Days

If it was a sunny day and we had approximately six hours of sun or more pouring through the south facing windows, we did not need to use the heating system at all.

The sun had no problem raising the temperature of the house from 19°C in the morning to about 24°C in the afternoon, in which case the temperature would drop to about 22°C in the evening and hover at about 20°C in the morning. Amazing!

 

What we’ll do differently next year

Overall, the house performed as expected, and the very low energy usage (seen here) and bills, even in a cold, grey winter, are great practical evidence. Less easy to share, but no less significant, is the supreme comfort that we enjoyed all winter long.

Hydry usage for the EkoBuilt passive house in winter 2017

Looking ahead to next year, we’re considering installing an ethanol (biofuel) fireplace. These units are a very simple and clean alternative to wood burning fireplaces and woodstoves, and their benefits are amplified in a passive house, where much less heat input is required to warm the home, and a fresh oxygen supply with good airflow is continually available.

There is a great overview of ethanol fireplaces on Houzz, and again we’d underscore the greater benefit to a passive house over a conventional build. In brief, this heating method has a very small environmental footprint, is low maintenance and attractive. We see this heat source as a great alternative when sunshine is severely limited, as it was this past winter in the Ottawa Valley. Any successful system has a built-in backup, and this looks like a great way to round out the solar engine that is driving our passive house.

Questions about the passive house performance?

If you have questions or thoughts about our passive home’s winter performance, please do feel free to comment here or contact us. We’re keen to share this information as clearly as possible in order to help homeowners to understand the huge benefits of building a passive house.

Ottawa passive house by EkoBuilt
Healthy Living

EkoBuilt featured in Capital Magazine

A nice overview of Passive House offerings in the Ottawa area featuring EkoBuilt has been published in the current issue of Capital, the magazine of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and business community. The article by Matt Curtis appears on page 22.

It’s great to see this kind of coverage and we’re delighted that EkoBuilt’s Trillium model is featured in the article’s picture.

Quick links

Article from Capital Magazine on passive house builders in Ottawa

Solar panels and energy tax in Canada
Energy & Household Trends, Solar Power

Canada needs a unified strategy on taxing energy

The CBC recently carried a story, P.E.I. man wants to know why he pays HST on electricity he generates himself, which left us scratching our heads. Honestly, this poor guy lives in a province where oil consumption for heating houses is exempt from HST, yet electricity is not, and legislation requires that he be taxed for generating it. Worse still? This man, whose solar panels are producing more electricity than he needs for his home, allowing him to sell the remainder through net metering to the grid, notes that the province’s customers then pay HST on what they use.

An article like this one illustrates approaches to carbon pricing in Alberta and Ontario, where oil is very much subject to taxing: http://www.macleans.ca/economy/economicanalysis/what-carbon-prices-in-alberta-and-ontario-will-cost-… Although taxed federally, as of late 2016 electricity consumption in Ontario no longer has the provincial portion (8%) of HST applied to consumers’ bills, whereas electricity pricing in Alberta remains steady following recent carbon pricing shifts.

Part of the problem with rationalizing energy pricing and taxation, of course, is the huge variation in energy generation infrastructure across the provinces and territories. Unlike Ontario, whose electricity is “90% emissions-free, thanks in part to Ontario’s early action to close coal-fired power generation” (source: https://www.ontario.ca/page/cap-and-trade-ontario), P.E.I. is in a much less fortunate position, with no active hydro-electric station, and a reliance on both out-of-province sources of electricity, as well as two in-province sources that are fired by diesel and oil.

None of the above really helps to explain how P.E.I. can tax someone who is generating clean electricity to contribute to a grid that is sorely lacking in local, clean sources of electricity, nor how it can fail to tax oil usage. The CBC story further explains that P.E.I.’s government and Maritime Electric claim that “federal tax law requires HST be charged to homeowners involved in net metering…[and that] homeowners could claim back the HST by registering as a business.” Are there any more hoops that homeowners should jump through in the name of nonsense?

While it may be understandably challenging for Canada to develop a unified and logical strategy on carbon taxing, there is an undeniable need for green solutions like solar electricity generation to be supported, not hindered! The future needs to be carbon-free, and solar panels are helping us to get there, along with individuals like the P.E.I. man who decided to build the most energy efficient home he could afford, unaware that the government would penalize him for doing so.